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Suspect in terror stabbing spree was on MI5 list


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Tragedy: Police forensic tents set up in Forbury Gardens in Reading, the scene of the stabbing attacks. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Tragedy: Police forensic tents set up in Forbury Gardens in Reading, the scene of the stabbing attacks. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

PA

Tragedy: Police forensic tents set up in Forbury Gardens in Reading, the scene of the stabbing attacks. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

The terror suspect accused of killing three people in a park in the English town of Reading had been investigated by MI5, it emerged last night.

The terror suspect accused of killing three people in a park in the English town of Reading had been investigated by MI5, it emerged last night.

Khairi Saadallah (25) was put on the security service's radar less than a year before Saturday's attack after a tip-off that he planned to go to his native Libya where it was feared he wanted to join a militant jihadist group. But the file was closed after two months when no evidence was found to back the claim.

Questions remained last night over whether Saadallah should have been at large at the time of Saturday evening's attack in a park in the town 60km west of London, after being released early from prison this month for minor offences.

The UK is prevented from deporting Libyan prisoners after their sentence because to do so would breach their human rights owing to the dangers posed there.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday he was "sickened and appalled" by the incident.

One of the victims was named last night as teacher James Furlong (36), head of history at a school in nearby Wokingham, described by colleagues as a "kind and gentle man".

It also emerged that Saadallah, who is understood to have had mental health problems, came to the UK as an illegal immigrant in 2012 and was granted asylum in 2018.

He told friends in the UK that he had fought as a child soldier to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi.

Saadallah lived in Manchester when he arrived in the UK and former neighbours in Reading suggested he moved in the same circles as Salman Abedi, who carried out the Manchester attack.

Whitehall sources confirmed Saadallah came "fleetingly" on to MI5's radar over "information suggesting he had travel aspirations".

The sources stressed Saadallah was one of about 30,000 names on the terror suspect list in 2019 but that he was never elevated to a "subject of interest" - reserved for the 3,000 suspects posing a greater threat to national security.

Saadallah remained in custody after his arrest on Saturday. He was rearrested last night under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which means officers now have 28 days in which to charge him.

Witnesses described a man entering the park, shouting something "unintelligible", possibly in a foreign language, before stabbing a group of people with a knife with a blade at least five inches long. He attacked a second group and then fled before being tackled by police officers.

Saadallah's flat, just over a kilometre from the scene of the attack, was raided by counter-terrorism police early yesterday.

Officers yesterday warned people to stay alert in parks amid fears of lone wolf attacks targeting crowds gathered outside owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent